Puppy's Christmas Star, by Odette Ross

Puppy has made a special Christmas star, but now he doesn’t know where to put it – all the special places have been filled. Kitty’s bells are in the hall and Ducky’s wreath is on the door. Where can Puppy hang his star? The answer is soon apparent – Puppy’s star is hung on top of a special tree – the Christmas tree.

Puppy’s Christmas Star is a board book offering for the very young, with simple text, bright colours and cute animal characters. The bold blue backgrounds make a pleasant change from all the reds and greens of so many Christmas offerings and there is also a counting element in the illustrations, which parents may pick up on – there is one star, two stockings, three candles, four bells and five Christmas tress on subsequent pages.

This is a cute offering for babies and toddlers.

Puppy’s Christmas Star, by Odette Ross
ABC Books, 2006

Space Dogs, by Justin Ball and Evan Croker

Belka drew a deep breath as the significance of the moment hit him. Gersbacian meets Earthling. Two worlds coming together. The hands of two great civilisations stretching out across the universe. This was it. This was First Contact . A thud threw Belka and Strelka forward in their seats.
‘He’s stuck his nose in our butt,’ Strelka announced, checking his instruments.

In 1957 a Russian dog called Laika was launched into space – never to be seen again. Far away, the residents of planet Gersbach were surprised to meet Laika when she crashed in their midst, but they soon grew to love her. Now, though, Gersbach is faced by destruction by a mysterious force located on Earth. They are sending their two finest Galactanauts to find and destroy it. Their ship should blend in easily on Earth – it is modelled on Laika – a spacecraft that looks just a dog.

On Earth the galactanauts face all sorts of perils – from rebel Gersbachians inside a dachshund-shaped craft, to angry boys on motorised scooters. But they find allies in the Buckley family – a family with problems of their own.

Space Dogs is a fun first novel from a talented pair, who have managed to have the book also published in the US and Canada and are in talks regarding film rights. Kids will like the silliness of the idea of tiny aliens travelling in dog-shaped craft, and the non-stop action of the story.

Space Dogs has been simultaneously released in print and audiobook versions, the latter read by Andrew McFarlane.

Space Dogs, by Justin Ball and Evan Croker
ABC Books, 2006

Quincy and Oscar, by Kerry Millard

Oscar and his dog Quincy have a close bond – they do everything together. When Oscar and his family move to a new neighbourhood, it seems no one there has any time for a new boy or a new dog. When Oscar goes to school each day, he is all alone. And, at home, Quincy is alone, too.

Then Oscar decides to take Quincy to school for the day, so that ‘that way, all day, they could be together’. Sharing their day with each other turns into an experience of sharing with classmates, and eventually, the whole neighbourhood, and as the day draws to a close, both Quincy and Oscar have found places in the community.

This is a gorgeous book about friendship and about belonging. Millard has created a gentle story, and brought it to life with vibrant illustrations rendered in a combination of watercolour, crayon, pen and pencil. A favourite spread is that of the pair walking to school, with one line of text – ‘Oscar and Quincy walked to school’, followed by a series of six illustrations showing their progress down the street, as a neighbour, the postman, a cat, a dog and a bird join their walk.


Quincy and Oscar, by Kerry Millard
ABC Books, 2006

Puppy and the Tall, Tall Tower, by Odette Ross

Puppy is building a castle. The castle has a tall, tall tower.
Kitty is a princess in the tower.
Elephant doesn’t know what he will be.

While Puppy, Kitty, Bunny and Ducky all find roles for themselves in their game, Elephant doesn’t know what he should be, until Puppy needs help rescuing Princess kitty from the tall tower. Only Elephant can reach that high.

Puppy and the tall, tall tower is a gentle tale for very young readers, with a simple message about friendship and belonging and a playtime situation kids will be able to relate with.

Featuring simple text and illustrations, and published in board book format, this title is suitable for babies and toddlers.


Puppy and the tall, tall tower, by Odette Ross
ABC Books, 2006

Audiobook Review: Dogs and Mogs, read by Andrew McFarlane & Leah Vandenberg

Kids love stories about animals, and none more than tales about dogs and cats. Mogs and Dogsis sure to delight with eight stories about cats and dogs.

Some of the stories feature favourite characters, including Harry (best known from the picture book Harry the Dirty Dog) who features in two stories – Harry by the Sea and No Roses for Harry and Slinki Malinki, the cat from the Hairy MacLary series. Other stories introduce new characters, such as Benjy, the dog who doesn’t like his new doghouse in Benjy’s Dog House

The stories are read by Andrew McFarlane and Leah Vandenburg, whose voices may be familiar to children from their time as presenters on television’s Playschool.

This is a cute offering, likely to appeal to children aged 4 to 8.

Dogs and Mogs, Read by Andrew McFarlane and Leah Vandenberg
ABC Audio, 2004

Wishbone, by Janeen Brian

Henry wanted a dog…a little rough-and-tumble dog with feathery ears…Or a happy-go-lucky dog that splashed in puddles…Or a roly-poly dog that loved to have its tummy tickled.

All Henry wants is a dog, but Henry’s mum says that it isn’t possible. So Henry has to content himself with playing with the dog next door, Wagger. One day Wagger presents Henry with a bone, and soon Henry has an idea. He plants the bone just like his mum plants her bean seeds – and makes a wish.

When a little dog turns up on Henry’s back doorstep he learns that sometimes wishes do come true.

Wishbone is a cute doggy story filled with both the real dogs and those of Henry’s imagination, brought to life in the watercolour illustrations by Kilmeny Niland..

Youngsters will love the dogs and the whimsy of this story, and, of course, the happy ending.

Very cute.

Wishbone, by Janeen Brian and Kilmeny Niland
ABC Books, 2002

Why Do I Have to Eat Off the Floor? by Chris Hornsey

Why can’t I drive the car?
Why can’t I dig in the garden?
Why can’t I sleep in your bed?

The questions posed in this quirky offering may sound like those every parent hears from their youngsters, but the twist is that they are actually a dog’s questions to its young owner. Murphy is a little dog with some big ambitions – digging with a back hoe, riding on an elephant, swinging a hula hoop – which are illustrated on the left hand page of each spread. The right hand page presents a more accurate picture of what is happening – when Murphy imagines himself excavating with a back hoe, he is really digging a hole in the flower bed, for example.

The question and answer format presents Murphy’s questions, which are asked with a beseeching look, rather than dialogue, coupled with patient (though frustrated) answers of the young owner.

The silliness of this book will appeal to preschoolers and the familiarity of the multitude of ‘whys’ will appeal to parents. The simple illustrations, watercolour with ink outlines, are an excellent complement.

Why Do I Have To Eat Off the Floor? by Chris Hornsey and Gwyn Perkins
Little Hare, 2005

The Postman's Dog, by Lisa Shanahan

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Lisa Shanahan’s Gordon’s Got a Snookie was probably one of the funniest children’s books I’ve ever read (I still chuckle reading it to my children), so I looked forward to Shanahan and Harris‘s latest book The Postman’s Dog with considerable anticipation. The humour in The Postman’s Dogis a lot more muted than that of Gordon, and there are no laugh outloud moments (like gorilla nitpicking or hospitalised hyenas), however, the book makes up for it with its tender prose, and rich sense of community and humanity. The story follows gregarious postman Charlie, who loves meeting the people he delivers mail to each day. Part of his pleasure is sharing the stories he hears with his wife every afternoon, but when his wife dies, he stops being gregarious. The neighbours rally together and convince him to get a dog, but his dog, who is otherwise happy and charming, doesn’t like his postman outfit, and the barking is driving the neighbours wild.

The story is ideal for preschoolers and there is just enough conflict to keep the plot moving forward. Although the story is sad at the point of Charlie’s wife’s death, the way the community rallies around him is moving and warm. Wayne Harris’ digital illustrations convey the strong and different characters of the multicultural community that Charlie lives in, including Mrs Zielinski, Mr Tran, Francesca and Mr Kumaradeva. Between the pictures and the text there are a lot of absorbing sub-stories and opportunities for discussion including the gelato shop and deli, Mrs Zielinski’s opera, Mrs Montague‘s violin, Mr Tran’s tricky immigration journey, Francesca’s ballet classes, and lots and lots of dogs. Children will love identifying the different ones, and helping Charlie choose a dog at the pound.

Adults will appreciate the positive messages, the camaraderie, the opportunity to ham it up–barking with Charlie’s dog or pointing out the detail in each picture, and above all, the gentle poetry of Shanahan‘s narrative:

And before long,
Charlie felt hope tingle
across his skin
like soft, summer rain.

Although there are no nits in this book, there is plenty of food for thought. This is another fine book by Shanhan and Harris, full of drama, pathos, and a very subtle humour.

The Postman’s Dog (Hardcover)
by Lisa Shanahan, Wayne Harris (Illustrator)
Allen & Unwin
Hardcover: 32 pages, October 2005, ISBN: 1741142520, RRP$A22.95

This review first appeared on Preschool Enetertainment. It appears here with permission.

Selby's Shemozzle, by Duncan Ball

Selby stopped in his tracks. ‘That is so incredibly funny,’ he thought in the split second before he started laughing uncontrollably. He doubled up and fell to the ground, pounding his paws in the dirt. ‘That is sooooooooo funny!’

Selby is back with more side splitting adventures and more shemozzles than one dog could expect in a lifetime. There are fourteen stories all featuring the world’s only talking dog as he gets covered in chocolate, turned invisible, wins the lottery and much more.

As always, Selby’s stories are recounted with the level of clever wit readers have come to expect from the loveable Selby. This is the thirteenth Selby title and marks the 20th anniversary of Selby’s adventures, which makes him one long-living dog.

Kids love Selby, and Selby’s Shemozzle is sure to please.

Selby’s Shemozzle, by Duncan Ball
Harper Collins, 2005

Dog Wars, by Michael Wagner

FINE! BE LIKE THAT! I’ll tell you the whole story, the full, complete story—the flea wrestling, Mum and Dad, the fights, all the trouble I caused, the war, everything! THEN WE’RE OUTTA HERE! OKAY?

The humans might call it Grandview, but to the dogs who live there, their suburb is known as Dogland. The dogs have their own sets of rules and their own way of sorting out problems and the humans are none the wiser. But when a flea on the lookout for adventure and excitement lands on Strongdog, the toughest dog of all, things start to change.

Dog Wars is a hilarious dog story with a very big difference – it is narrated by a flea. This sassy character, Faydo T. Flea, tells the story of his adventures onboard Strongdog, who he controls through subtle direction in his ear. Wagner uses this device for maximum silliness. Kids will love it and even adults will laugh out loud.

Each dog character is distinct and dog lovers will recognise their own dog breeds there, from the feisty poodle to the shifty dachshund and the dirty, but happy, mutt. Dog Wars is a dog-lover’s delight.

Dog Wars, by Michael Wagner
Black Dog Books, 2004